Last year I did a presentation on NVMe for Beginners along with Craig Waters for vBrownBag at the Melbourne VMUG UserCon. It was a daunting experience as it was a new cohort to present in front of and NVMe is a topic I had no expertise in. It’s something I wanted to learn more about and I thought that doing a presentation on it would mean I’d have to pull my finger out and really get down to understanding it. Nothing like a bit of pressure to learn something :-). Thankfully with Craig I had someone that had been through the mill a few times when it came to presenting. His mentorship and guidance made the presentation so much easier, and it gave me the confidence to do the presentation on my own a few months later at a normal VMUG.
Unfortunately the presentation contained proprietary information so it cannot be circulated online but I’ll run through the premise of the presentation and hopefully provide a brief introduction to NVMe. If you want to get the best understanding possible about NVMe I cannot recommend enough that you take time to read J Metz’s article on Cisco blogs NVMe for Absolute Beginners. It’s a phenomenal breakdown on NVMe and it’s so well written that even I was able to comprehend it.
I’ll run through the presentation as much as possible here. So, why NVMe?
- It’s already in consumer devices
- It’s faster and more parallel that SAS
- It’s required to take advantage of tomorrows advances
- NVMe fills a price performance / performance gap between low cost per GB and low throughput vs. high cost per GB, high throughput DRAM
Lately I’ve been trying to get on top of all the things I have going on in life to give myself a little bit of perspective and find a bit more joy in life. Just like anybody else with young kids I find it hard to juggle home and work responsibilities. On top of this I have a number of other things I’d like to personally achieve throughout the year. I wrote a blog post called what’s another year which details all the things I’d like to do this year. It’s a long list and all are time consuming in their own right. What I’ve found though is that I’ve been failing to meet most if not all of these objectives and to be completely honest it’s been getting me down.
I’ve completed some of the list already which is great but I’ve found that we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year and I’m behind on a lot of them. I regularly frequent a cycling site called Cyclingtips and if you’re at all into cycling I’d highly recommend spending a few hours reviewing the content there. As I reviewed some of the old content I came across two posts which struck a chord. The first was around parenthood and cycling. One of my main goals for the year is to get cycling fit and to build cycling into my routine. In the past three weeks I’ve struggled with this and I was looking to see what others have done to make it work for them.
This lead me to another post on CyclingTips called the two and a quarter rule. It’s a brief post but I found it so bang on. We have the capacity to handle two and a quarter things at any one time. For most people this is normally broken down as 1 being given up to work, 1 being given up to family and the last one quarter being yours to do as you wish. But it’s a finite resource. If you allocate too much to the quarter it will mean you will overflow and impact the other two areas of your life and that will have it’s own consequences. As soon as I read this article it dawned on me that my problem was that I was squeezing too much into the quarter and not getting as much as I wanted done. This is partly why I haven’t been able to keep on top of cycling in the past few weeks, there were other focuses. This is still going to be the case but I’ve decided that the quarter is flexible and I’m going to use it on a day to day basis. So one day the focus will be on getting out for a bike ride, another it’ll be to create a blog post such as this, another day it’ll focus on reading a book or studying for an exam. This way I will be able to get the majority of what I’d like to complete this year finished off and not impact either my family or work commitments. Or at least minimise the impact.
I’d highly recommend spending a bit of time to see if the two and a quarter rule works for you or even fits what you have going on in life. For me personally it fits, but I’d be interested in hearing what others find.
Last week was the annual pilgrimage to Cisco Live in Melbourne. Well, normally it is. This year however I was unable to secure a free pass because let’s be honest here, the price of a full pass is extortionate. While the value of the event cannot be disputed the cost to get there can. Cisco Live is the best networking conference in Melbourne for those working in enterprise IT. I also mean networking in both senses of the word, networking technology and people networking. This year there were 7200 attendees and it promised to be an absolute cracker. But I was not going to be there.
I find conferences such as Cisco Live a great way to recharge the batteries and get re-inspired at work. You hear about all the latest and greatest and being out of your normal habitat changes how you approach solutions. Having the opportunity to meet experts and those that have literally wrote the book on a subject is invaluable. I’ve been to the past three Cisco Live events in Melbourne and I had hoped to keep that run going but unfortunately this year I was unable to secure a pass and it was too much of an expense to fund myself.
It wasn’t so bad though. We run our Cisco Data Center User Group (DCUG) on a monthly basis and it falls on the first Tuesday of Cisco Live so we had organised to have two international speakers for that. This would at least give me my fix. We were extremely fortunate to have Lukas Krattiger and David Jansen both extend their schedule to fit in the DCUG and provide a thoroughly enthralling session.
It’s a bit strange writing about podcasts. Up until about three years about I didn’t really listen to podcasts. I started listening to one with my wife in the car and that led to finding some decent tech related podcasts. I spend about an hour and a half on public transport for my commute and it’s an easy way to consume podcasts without too much hassle. And that’s the beauty of podcasts, simplicity. Personally the best thing about podcast is digesting information easily and using what would otherwise be dead time to learn something new.
So what’s on my podcast list? The short answer is loads. I know this blog is tech focused but it’s important to branch outside your career so in my case there’s a few cycling podcasts as well as some that are related to hobbies and general entertainment.
||This is the go-to Tech podcast for me. Ethan Banks and Chris Wahl have a great dynamic. The format is spot on with reflection on the discussion throughout the podcast. It covers enterprise tech, cloud tech and bits in between with emerging tech. If you only listen to one tech podcast make it this one.
||Datanauts – iTunes
|Tech OnTap Podcast
||This is focused on NetApp technology but it’s a great resource for understanding the storage industry in general and where it’s going. If you work with NetApp technology at all then I’d highly recommend giving it a listen.
||TechOnTap – iTunes
|The On-Premise IT Roundtable
||The is run by Gestalt IT and it’s excellent. A bunch of industry heavy-weights that attend the Field Day events hosted by GestaltIT sit around and discuss topics relevant to the future landscape of IT, taking in a business perspective and the impacts also. A truly informative listen.
||On-Premise IT – iTunes)
|Tech Village Podcast
||This is a new podcast but so far I love the format. It’s run by Yadin and Lauren and takes over the mantle of The Geek Whisperers in relation to IT career development. It has a very slick production quality and they interview those from the community and looks at distributed mentorship as a way to advance your career.
||Tech VIllage – iTunes
|Virtually Speaking Podcast
||This is the VMware podcast hosted by Pete Flecha and John Nicholson. Pete used to be on the Tech OnTap podcast and the NetApp communities podcast prior to that with Nick Howell. This is a slick podcast with great guests and looks at not just the technology but also the use cases around it. The podcast is largely, albeit unsurprisingly, based on VMware technology but also deals with community engagement and interaction as well as blogging tips. It’s got some great intro music as well.
||Virtually Speaking – iTunes
|The Geek Whisperers
||This was one my favourite podcasts. It focused on career development and the journeys that people take. It was hosted by John Troyer, Matt Broberg and Amy Lewis. I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough. Sadly, it is no more after the trio decided to stop producing new content back in August 2017. The content they produced though could be considered timeless for the most part so make sure to check out all the back catalog. If you liked the Geek Whisperers then definitely check out the Tech Village podcast.
||Geek Whisperers – iTunes
It’s at this time of year that most people begin to review all that was completed in 2017 and attempt to set some new goals for 2018. A lot of people I respect in the industry have presented their goals for 2018 and I noticed that I hadn’t done a post for last year to say what my goals were. This year however I want to have it documented for both posterity and for accountability.
So, where do I start with goals for 2018. I don’t really buy into just having new years resolutions as these are usually something like “I need to go to the gym more” and then you handover half your years wages for the privilege of sitting on your couch. For me the goals for the coming year need to be something tangible, relevant and achievable. Some of them are stretch goals so there a bit more challenging to reach but that’s part of the joy really. In order to figure out what goals I wanted to set I took a look back at what was achieved last year and what I didn’t get around to doing. If anything was still relevant it could be carried over to the new year.
In general 2017 was a personally outstanding year. I know a lot of people are glad to see the back of it but it provided some great achievements and memories for both me and my family. On Australia Day I was sworn in as an Australian citizen which was an emotional experience and a great way to kickstart the year. I took stock of my career over the previous Christmas holiday period and looked at the opportunities within my role, where the company was going and what my role was morphing into following some heavy organisational restructuring. I had a realisation that I was struggling to achieve a good work-family balance and that something had to change. Due to significant out-of-hours work requirements, as it was a global role, I wasn’t really present for family events or moments and when I was I was just tired and general a curmudgeonly old bastard. While I was enjoying my job I wasn’t enjoying my family time so I pulled the pin and moved into a locally based role rather than a global one and took the opportunity to move into a Solutions Architecture position. I have to say that it’s been an immense change and my own mental health is much better for it.
Architect your Career
If you’ve ever watched the TV show Grand Designs you’ll know that one of the mantras of the host Kevin McCloud is that the builder should not be the architect or the project manager. Every time there’s a self-build project and the couple take on more than their capabilities his first piece of advice is to get a dedicated architect or project manager. And he’s normally right.
Well, why don’t we take the same principle to our careers. We are essentially all self-builders. We’re the people digging the foundation, laying the blocks, installing the plumbing and electrics. All while learning on the fly. Exactly like a career. Sometimes when we’re caught up in the minutiae of the day to day things it’s hard to step back and take a 10000 feet view of where things are at and where they can go. As solution architects this is exactly what we have to do. Look at the vision, the requirements, the constraints, the capabilities and what interfaces need to be taken into account.
Where this this all start?
Towards the middle of last year the company I worked with underwent a major organisational restructure within the IT department. The reasons for the change were I believe justified, as the company grew through acquisition they needed to be able to ensure 24 x 7 global support and have the ability for the regional teams to be in constant communication and collaboration. The goal was to drive standardisation across all sites and in turn drive down costs to deliver IT services. Prior to this each primary site, a total of 9 globally, worked in their own silos with their own budgets. The vision was needed but as with all restructures there are some casualties. Some are desired and others are just unintentional fallout. Following the acceptance by senior executives there were some immediate resignations at the mid-management level which were expected. The delivery of the new restructure dragged on however and led to a number of senior engineers leaving too. Including me.
We’ve all heard stories of hoarders. That one guy in the neighbourhood that has two cars, a lawnmower, a boat, two dog sheds, an engine from a vintage car, a second rusted engine from a vintage car, some bales of hay and what looks to be a Salvador Dali custom one of a kind sculpture in their front garden. There’s even TV shows about these guys. I honestly believe some of the most under-represented hoarders are those that work in IT. In some cases they should actually be museum pieces. Everyone I know has battle scars of having to deal with ancient relics from a bygone era that is hosting the most critical application for the entire company and hasn’t been patched in 20 years because Jim that installed it but has since retired and no one else is will to risk it. What if it never comes back up? It’s not under a support contract. How is it that IT systems are still being bound with baling twine (probably taken from your neighbourhood hoarders hay bales) and refurbished, bought from e-bay, hard disks? Any worst of all, it’s generally accepted as standard practice in some places. I’ll never forget being ask by the finance director if we could just buy a new EMC Clariion from ‘the internet’ rather than go through a proper procurement process with EMC directly. “Shur isn’t the internet cheap.” Yes boss it is but…..
So to understand this mentality of not wanting to change and hoarding old equipment in data centers in a large part to justify their existance I have take a look at what a hoarder is and also what it is not.
What a hoarder is not:
A hoarder is not a collector. A collector has a sense of pride about their possessions and take pleasure in showing and talking about their possessions. Collectors tend to keep their possessions organised. A hoarder on the other hand will generally experience embarassment about their possessions and feel uncomfortable when others see them. Their possessions take over the functional living space and they often incur great debt to satisfy their hoarding needs.
vNotions Logo LargeThose that frequent the site regularly will have noticed quite a few changes recently. I’ve migrated the blog from wordpress.com to a hosted wordpress site and the name has also changed from virtualnotions to vNotions. I wanted to get more control of the site and be able to develop it over time into something else as it continues to grow and develop. WordPress.com is excellent as a free resource but I wanted to be able to customise more.
I really wasn’t sure what the best hosting solution would be as there are a number of options. There’s managed, managed hosted, virtual private server (VPS) and also the option of running wordpress in AWS. I turned to twitter to see if anyone had any recommendations for hosting wordpress. The first reply came from Mike Andrews (@trekintech) and I have to thank him for the recommendation. I had a look at a number of different providers and settled on DigitalOcean which was put forward by Mike. DigitalOcean have a strong community forum and supporting documentation so it was very easy to get everything set up. Each VPS in DigitalOcean is called a droplet and it’s very quick to deploy a new server instance. I stumbled across ServerPilot.io which allows quick deployment of apps on DigitalOcean VPS instances. ServerPilot takes a lot of hassle with setting up new apps and given that it’s also got a free option it’s very appealing. It also deployed WordPress using the Nginx engine so it’s considerably faster than just the LAMP stack with Apache. For quick reference check out this guide for installing wordpress on ubuntu and also this one one installing wordpress on DigitalOcean. There’s also a good guide on setting up wordpress on DigitalOcean over at MyBloggingThing. It was a straightforward process to set up a new instance of wordpress and migrate the content from the old wordpress.com site to the new vNotions.com site. Once the site was migrated and fully operational I enabled CDN using CloudFlare to improve speed accessing the site from disperse graphical locations. All in all, it was a relatively painless process.
Right now I’m tidying up the posts on the site to clear out any old posts that are no longer relevant. I’d like to thank Mike Andrews for his feedback that set the ball rolling. For anyone thinking of checking out DigitalOcean I’d definitely recommend jumping right in. The support team at DigitalOcean were also top class and replied very quickly to an issue I had (self-inflicted I might add). vNotions has vMotioned from VirtualNotions.
Scott Lowe, who is a well know IT contributor, recently released a post about his 2016 Projects. While I don’t have any intention of writing a book this year his post did get me thinking about what I’d like to work on this year and what goals I want to aim for. Truth be told it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about since the Xmas period but I’ve been having a bit of a writers block for the past month so I’ve only gotten around to this now.
So here they are, the goals I’m making myself accountable to for the next 11 months.
1. Blog more
Last year was my first real attempt to blog regularly and I have to admit that it was sometimes hard to find the time to write down all the blog ideas I have in my head. In total I published 56 blog posts on virtualnotions which is actually more than I had expected at roughly 1 a week. This year I want to build on the foundation of last year and work at releasing more content. One thing I really want to ensure is the quality remains high. I was a bit surprised by the buzz I got from posting some new content and seeing the readership rise for various posts. The site traffic jumped around March of last year and steadily grew for the remainder of the year. The number of visitors isn’t going to break any blog records but it’s been satisfying watch it grow and has provided encouragement to keep going.
2. Get back on the certification trail
During the past couple of years I’ve let this aspect of my career drop a bit. This is largely down to motivation and starting a family. Having kids, as I’m sure many are well aware, really destroys the free time that existed before kids. Now that they are growing and most importantly healthy, I want to put some focus back on certifications. I know for many certifications are seen to be unnecessary but I’m using them as learning tools. I’ve expanded my knowledge over the past few years into different technology and the key certs I will work on will be to further expand and solidify my knowledge in those areas. The ones I’ll be working towards are CCNA DC, NetApp NCDA and re-certify for VMware VCP. I want to also start working towards VMware VCAP-6 which I want to complete next year. All of these certs are big undertakings but once I get into the study zone it should hopefully make it easier to complete a few of them in succession.
3. Community participation Read More